Whether you are a manager, director, VP, or C-Level executive, you are probably curious to discover the best executive search firms in America.
Since your career takes up a significant portion of your life, finding the perfect company to partner with requires serious consideration.
To save you time, Find My Profession has compiled a list of the best search firms for executives, in our opinion.
Before we present our top 10, it’s important to understand:
- What are executive search firms?
- How do executive search firms work?
If you already have a basic understanding of what executive search firms are, and how they work, you can skip down to our list of the top companies below.
What are executive search firms?
An executive search firm is defined by Inc as “specialized recruitment services that find top-level candidates for senior, executive, or other highly specialized positions for clients.”
Note: There are a variety of acceptable names for “executive search firms.”
In this article, you will notice us using a handful of terms interchangeably.
Some of these terms include:
- Executive search firms
- Executive recruitment agencies
- Executive headhunters
- Executive placement companies
- Etc. etc. etc.
Beyond the names used to describe these services, executive search firms come with a ton of variety.
Some executive search firms are small boutique shops with a few employees.
Other notable agencies such as KornFerry have hundreds or thousands of employees.
Some executive search firms specialize in one industry (i.e. finance).
Others cover a broad array of careers (i.e. finance, sales, HR, tech).
Below, we will help identify a variety of the top executive search firms, with insight into their areas of expertise.
How do executive recruitment companies work?
Traditional executive recruitment companies (a.k.a. executive search firms) are retained by hiring managers to help fill open positions.
A company looking to fill an open position is responsible for retaining an executive recruitment company to manage the job search and present well-qualified candidates to the company.
It’s important to note that most executive search firms do not take an active approach to help individual job seekers find positions.
Traditional search firms are retained by companies to fill open positions.
For the most part, they are not sought out by individuals looking for a job.
Below, we will explain the distinct relationship between hiring managers and search firms, as well as job seekers and search firms.
Example 1: Hiring Manager + Search Firm
Let’s say Mike is a hiring manager at Apple. Mike is looking for a VP in Program Management to lead a new company project.
Mike goes to an executive search firm and retains them to find and present qualified candidates for the VP, Program Management opening.
The executive search firm begins searching for the perfect candidate.
Once ideal candidates have been found, the executive search firm will present them to Mike, so that he can begin interviewing them internally.
That’s essentially what you can expect as a hiring manager retaining an executive search firm.
But let's say you are a job seeker working with an executive search firm.
If so, the process may look a bit different.
Example 2: Job Seeker + Search Firm
Steve is looking for a new job as a Director in Business Development, so he calls up an executive search firm and asks if they have any matching jobs.
The executive search firm may offer to take down your information, and reach out if they find anything that’s a fit (90% of search firms).
More often than not, you are going to want to keep looking on your own.
The chances that an executive search firm has the perfect opportunity the moment you call is very slim.
Below, we’ll highlight some of the top traditional search firms (#2-10), including one executive search firm that takes a unique approach, working directly for the job seekers to find, apply, and network on your behalf (#1).
Top 10 Best Executive Search Firms In America
If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to read our detailed reviews below, here is a shortlist of the top 10 executive search firms in America:
- Find My Profession
- Korn Ferry
- Heidrick and Struggles
- Spencer Stuart
- Russell Reynolds Associates
- Egon Zehnder
- DHR International
- Lucas Group
- Diversified Search
And now for the detailed reviews...
1. Find My Profession
Overview: Find My Profession (yes, that's us) is not what you would consider a “traditional” executive search firm.
Rather than being retained by companies to fill open positions (traditional search firm), Find My Profession is the only company on this list who is retained directly by the job seeker.
You might be asking yourself, “Why would I pay a company to help me find a job when all the other companies on this list are free!?”
The answer is this:
Traditional executive search firms are incentivized and compensated to fill job openings. Unless they have a job opening that you are a perfect fit for, there is no incentive to help you find a job.
This doesn’t mean executive headhunters are bad people. It simply is not in their job description to help every job seeker find jobs, apply to those jobs, and network on their behalf.
Don’t get me wrong … If you have the time, you should give every single company on this list a call prior to retaining a service like Find My Profession.
But if you are like most job seekers, you will still have a lot of work cut out for you even after calling the companies on this list.
Find My Profession was created as a solution for busy professionals.
You finally have the option to hire a professional to manage all aspects of your job hunt.
We will find jobs that match your specifications, apply to those jobs on your behalf, and network you to key decision-makers.
Year founded: 2015
Locations: Find My Profession employees are sprinkled in various locations throughout the US. While we are able to work with executive job seekers in all 50 states, we are generally limited to high-population cities.
Pros: Vastly different from the rest of the companies on this list, we take traditional executive search services and flip it on its head by working directly for you, the job seeker, to professionally manage your executive job search.
Because we don’t charge hiring managers a placement fee like the other search firms on this list, you instantly become more competitive.
- We start off by updating your marketing materials.
- Then we search for relevant executive placements that match your profile.
- We identify and contact key individuals on your behalf in order to arrange interviews and networking meetings.
Cons: Find My Profession is not retained by the hiring company, which means it is the job seeker's responsibility to retain their services.
With an $8,000 price tag, there may be a barrier to entry for some.
Contact information: 1-831-888-0967.
2. Korn Ferry
Overview: Korn Ferry is a global consulting firm that offers some of the best recruitment services you will find.
One of the top 10 executive search firms, Korn Ferry states their goal is to help clients “close the gap between the talent you have and the talent you need.”
They help client companies hire the right people, focusing on talent acquisition and employee development.
Year founded: 1969
Locations: Korn Ferry has over 100 offices worldwide, serving clients in over 50 countries.
Pros: Clearly efficient in helping executives navigate and advance their careers, they boast of a placement every three minutes.
Their website claims that the CEOs they place through their job recruitment services stay 67% longer and deliver 25% greater value.
Cons: Although the success of this recruitment firm speaks to its efficiency and expertise, single individuals seeking an executive position might be overwhelmed by the options and categories available on their website.
Contact information: 1-800-633-4410.
3. Heidrick & Struggles
Overview: Heidrick & Struggles provides senior-level executive search services, as well as leadership consulting.
One of the original executive search firms, Heidrick & Struggles has been in existence for over 60 years. Considered one of the top recruiting firms, their consultants offer integrated leadership solutions with a vision to transform leaders, teams, and organizations.
Year founded: 1953
Locations: From a single office in Chicago, Illinois, back in 1953, Heidrick and Struggles now operates in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific.
Pros: This network of executive search consultants and professionals follow four primary values: win as one firm, own the results, grow with our clients, and always act with integrity.
With their commitment to diversity and inclusion, their executive placement services seek to source diverse and innovative talent.
Cons: This company’s professional recruitment services are geared toward helping companies and organizations find the right talent with their executive search service, rather than assisting executive individuals seeking a position.
Contact information: 1-312-496-1200 is the number of their corporate office. For a list of local offices with contact info, visit their locations page.
4. Spencer Stuart
Overview: Spencer Stuart offers executive search services to top companies.
This is one of the top headhunting firms with many clients, from multinational corporations to medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurial startups. They are considered one of the premier firms for counsel and executive recruitment.
Year founded: 1956
Locations: They have 58 offices in 31 countries, throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Pros: Spencer Stuart is committed to helping businesses find and develop executive leaders using an executive search and recruitment process that employs professional assessment. They also seek to connect with exceptional executives who might be senior-level candidates for their client companies.
They have a straightforward process in which you submit your resume, making your details available to their experienced executive headhunters.
Cons: For those who might be concerned about their personal data, registering as a candidate with Spencer Stuart makes your information available to their offices worldwide.
Contact information: Visit their Global Locations page for office addresses and telephone numbers near you.
5. Russell Reynolds Associates
Overview: Russell Reynolds Associates is one of the best recruitment agencies founded on the objective of executive search and recruitment. Their goal is to understand their client’s goals and then to determine the ideal leadership candidate to fill those roles.
Their executive recruiting consultants draw on personal experience and their network of contacts to facilitate their search for executive leadership.
Year founded: 1969
Locations: You can find offices for this executive job search firm in 46 locations worldwide.
Pros: Russell Reynolds Associates offers not only executive search services, but also assessments, cultural evaluations, advice on digital and technological platforms, and succession planning.
If you register as a candidate, you can upload your resume and wait to be contacted by a consultant.
Cons: With a focus on over half a dozen services in varied industries, some potential candidates might prefer to go with executive recruitment agencies that have a more narrow focus.
Contact information: Browse hundreds of consultants by location, area of expertise, and/or industry by visiting their website here.
6. Egon Zehnder
Overview: Egon Zehnder states that their primary goal is “to empower our clients to drive lasting positive change through leadership.”
Since 1964, Egon Zehnder has focused on providing executive job search services at senior levels for their clients.
In the past five years, they have performed over 3,600 assignments and placements. In addition to executive job search placements, they provide board advisory services, succession planning, and leadership development.
Year founded: 1964
Locations: Egon Zehnder is located in 68 offices across 40 countries.
Pros: Their team of over 450 consultants consists of former business leaders who have experience in various industries, including financial services, technology and communications, and the public and social sectors.
They state that their best recruitment services enable them to build long-term relationships with clients.
Cons: Because their focus is on building partnerships with client companies, a candidate seeking executive placement in a smaller, entrepreneurial company might not find what they’re looking for here.
Contact information: Choose your target location and area of expertise on their website, and see what consultants are available to contact via phone, email, or LinkedIn.
Overview: Boyden was founded over 70 years ago, in 1946, as a pioneer of the executive search format. They opened the first of their international executive placement firms in Geneva in 1962.
Throughout their existence, Boyden has focused on partnering with client companies and organizations to source and recruit executive talent.
In 2011, Trina Gordon was named CEO of Boyden World Corporation, the first female CEO of one of the largest job recruitment agencies.
Year founded: 1946
Locations: This company has 65 offices in 40 countries around the world.
Pros: Their website is clean and easily navigable. As with other similar job search firms, you can upload your CV and resume as an executive candidate.
They also offer business and leadership consulting and coaching.
Cons: As one of the executive headhunter firms whose primary service is to their client companies, executive individuals searching for the ideal position might find themselves facing high levels of competition.
Contact information: Select the location nearest to you on their website in order to receive local contact information.
8. DHR International
Overview: DHR International claims to be “the only global executive search firm that combines unparalleled research capabilities, truly personalized service, and creative agility.”
They use their global network to seek out ideal expertise as far as candidates by offering a “firm-wide collaboration” across their various locations with an ultimate goal to “deliver top talent to every client.”
Year founded: 1989
Locations: This is one of the few executive search firms that have more than 50 offices around the globe.
Pros: They offer a two-year guarantee; if a candidate leaves or gets fired within two years of hiring, they will recruit a new candidate for no additional fee.
The process they use for their top recruiting services is clearly stated on their website; it involves assessment and research, as well as candidate qualification, identification, and development, and selection.
Cons: As their focus is on client companies, individuals seeking an executive placement with top recruitment agencies such as this one might not receive the same level of attention and focus.
Contact information: 1-312-782-1581.
9. Lucas Group
Overview: Lucas Group offers to help you land your next executive position through their access to executive positions that are currently hiring.
The goal of this executive search firm is “to be North America’s premier executive recruiting firm.” They also seek to place candidates in a position that helps satisfy their career ambitions.
Year founded: 1970
Locations: Lucas Group has offices in 15 cities in North America, as well as strategic partnerships with recruiting firms in Europe and Canada.
Pros: Their website is easily navigable, with a job search function that showcases hiring opportunities throughout North America. You can search for current jobs by category or location.
Their executive recruiters help you find opportunities and work toward your career goals.
Cons: Although you can find available jobs in your location on Lucas Group’s website, you cannot search for specific executive roles.
Contact information: 1-800-466-4489.
10. Diversified Search
Overview: Diversified Search is the last on our list of top 10 executive search firms in America.
The firm’s executive headhunters have a global reach, enabling them to provide clients with professional executive recruitments.
Over the past 40 years, Diversified Search has worked to identify ideal candidates and offer executive placements in top-level leadership positions.
Year founded: 1974
Locations: Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, they also have nine locations throughout America as well as “global search capabilities” in 35 countries.
Pros: This is one of the top recruitment agencies that work across multiple sectors, industries, and fields.
Their assessment services utilize behavioral interviews and a standardized employment assessment tool to help client companies make well-informed decisions about candidates.
Cons: Their website, although modern, is not the easiest to navigate for executive candidates. There is only one link for job hunters, visible on the bottom left side of the page after you click “menu.” You click on “submit resume” and reach a separate page where you can create a candidate profile.
Contact information: 1-800-423-3932.
Before contacting an executive search firm...
We've all heard that first impressions are everything.
This couldn't be truer when job searching.
The last thing you want to do is contact an impressive search firm without taking the time to prepare first.
The number one mistake you can make is sending these companies an old, outdated, or ineffective resume.
Your resume might be kept on file at these search firms for years to come.
So, make sure it represents the best version of you!
If you need help with your resume, Find My Profession specializes in Executive and C-Suite resumes.
All our resumes are Applicant Tracking System (ATS) compatible and come with a 60-Day Interview Guarantee.
All the best in landing your dream job!